Professional Development Collaborative

Training Today’s Professional for Tomorrow’s Workplace

Technical group in Acton provides hands-on approach to upgrading job skills

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What is the best way to keep and get a job? Constantly upgrade your skills.  Workshops and online courses are one way to do so. Another is to join a group such as the Technical Skills Share Group (TSSG), which uses current technology to develop and share skills in the areas of web and mobile development and data analytics.

The TSSG is a purely volunteer organization, based in Acton and founded in 2008 by members of the Acton Networking Group who recognized the need to upgrade and keep current with software technology advances while they looked for work. It is a peer-based active learning group created for technical professionals in transition and enthusiasts seeking to be current with the latest advances.

Four groups develop mobile, web and data analytics applications and practice software quality assurance through Agile Project Management methodology. Groups are run by volunteers who research and lead the projects independently on a weekly basis. Andy Leuper, current TSSG general manager, a volunteer and software development and agile coach, leads the multi-disciplined organization and facilitates the Wednesday general meetings where the four groups come together for an open discussion about product development and reports on progress through a technical presentation by each group’s leader. Members attend in person and remotely through Google Hangouts.

The Web Application Development team, currently moderated by Lisa Hunt, meets Mondays via Google Hangouts only.  The group explores Laravel, an open-source PHP web framework; MEAN Stack, a collection of JavaScript-based technologies used to develop web applications, and HTML 5. The current project is a site called Musicians Manager, a web app that helps an actual swing-era big band manage its song library, set lists, gigs and its many musicians.

“I joined Technical Skills Share Group because I heard a lot about it and wanted to learn more,” says newer member Lora Bates, a project management professional. “What I found is I could add value by making an on-boarding document to faster and more easily communicate with an external audience. My initiative was embraced, and that in itself was rewarding. We created records to be dynamically changed as the TSSG projects change.”

The Mobile Application Development team, currently moderated by Ray Bloom, meets Tuesdays at the Acton library and via Google Hangouts. It develops projects for Android through Java script and is currently developing a Sleep Analyzer, a software embedded tool to evaluate brain waves for at-home sleep studies. They also worked on Event Boss, a mobile app developed in Java.

Steve Buck, a recent member working with the mobile development team, said, “I was looking for a town/local technical group.  I thought that if I could build a local network, I might not have to move or have long commutes to work. I want to demonstrate software development skills and I found opportunity in leadership as well.”

The Data Analytics (Big Data) team, moderated by Norm Heckman, meets on Fridays at the Acton library and on Google Hangouts. They explore Kaggle, Python, Amazon web services and machine learning.

The newly formed Software Quality Assurance Team, also led by Ray Bloom, meets Thursdays at the Acton library and via Google Hangouts.

One of the great reasons to join TSSG is that it answers the question potential employers always ask: What have you been doing since you’ve been out of work? Members have demonstrated apps and sites they have helped develop and demonstrated their knowledge of the development process. Recently, a former member accepted a position outside her area of expertise; with her ease in demonstrating an app she helped to develop, the hiring managers were comfortable with her ability to quickly learn new skills.

The group is always looking for new members, especially those who want to do coding. As volunteers move from being unemployed to employed, many remained involved, but of course members who are working obviously don’t have as much free time to devote to projects.

Running the development projects in an agile environment allows for a smooth transition for on-boarding new team members. All that is required to join is to attend a Wednesday meeting (12:30-5 p.m.) at the Acton library to be introduced to the programs and people and a promise to share what you have learned with the group.

 

Edie Fossey, a marketing graphics traffic manager, can be reached at ediefossey@gmail.com.

 

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